Too many BPM initiatives fail. We’ve got to do better. In this article, I discuss an important area where considerable improvement can be realized. Process-based management is not achieved and sustained by having the right software and methods, indeed you can probably make it work well with the wrong software and methods. Done properly, process-based management is a systemic approach to the relentless pursuit of organizational performance improvement. It’s largely a mind game. Put simply, to ‘do process’, an organization, its people, and their teams need to ‘think process’. In a process-centric organization, all employees are conscious that their roles are to participate in executing a range of processes. They think beyond the activities described in their own job descriptions to see their roles in the bigger picture of creating, accumulating, and delivering value to customers and other stakeholders via cross-functional processes. Yes, that is a big change. The unrelenting emphasis is on conscious, cross-functional collaboration—and that is often challenging for individuals and functional units in an organization. Achievement of effective, sustained, process-based management is ninety per cent mindset and ten per cent toolset. Too often, the focus is on the ten per cent at the expense of the ninety per cent. Tools, including software, systems, methods, and techniques, are critically important—the full one hundred per cent is needed—but the tools are not the main game. Having the right tools is necessary but nowhere near sufficient for success. It might be argued that the mindset/toolset emphasis is 80/20, or perhaps even 70/30, rather than 90/10, but it’s certainly not the reverse of any of those. Tools and techniques alone won’t create a viral spread of the idea of process-based management. Hearts and minds are also needed. To have any value, process-based management must support achievement of organizational objectives. Success is not measured by the number of models drawn, the cleverness of a process architecture, the number of process measures identified, or the sophistication of automation. Success can only be claimed if organizational performance has been demonstrably improved as a result of taking a process view. The process mindset must be about achieving those consequences of effective process management and improvement; that is, it must be about improving organizational performance. Success is not measured by the number of models drawn, the cleverness of a process architecture, the number of process measures identified, or the sophistication of automation. Having the process-based management idea resonate throughout an organization provides a shared mindset with which to build its practices. The likelihood that organizations, teams, or individuals will adopt process-centric management approaches depends on what they think will happen if they do. When everyone is conscious of their contribution to the cross-functional processes that are delivering value, the result is process management excellence. The process mindset is not about attracting devotees to a theory, but about creating and sustaining change in the way work is designed, undertaken, and managed across the organization. The practical application of process-based management needs to take systemic form. It may not be enough to declare a commitment to ‘operational excellence’, since that might just imply working harder to keep poorly designed processes operational. ‘Excellence’ needs to be found in a ubiquitous desire to continually find ways to improve performance—not just in a continuous, heroic struggle to correct for process flaws. Ironically, at the highest levels of BPM maturity, the practices of process-based management are so embedded in the culture, and so ubiquitous in practice, that they are virtually unseen. At the lowest levels of maturity, the idea of process does not even arise. As maturity develops, driven by the development of all seven enablers, individuals, and then teams, start to think about cross-functional processes. Eventually those thoughts result in practical activities to shape and nurture process thinking. Over time, the application of process-based management becomes automatic and the classic definition of organizational culture, ‘the way we do things around here’, once more proves accurate. Passively waiting for the happy day when everyone is ready is clearly not a winning strategy. Timing is everything. An organization must be ready to start, and continue, a journey to process-based management, a change that is as much about organizational culture as it is about the logistics of process management and improvement. Passively waiting for the happy day when everyone is ready is clearly not a winning strategy. Neither is the development of a process mindset a Jedi mind trick, something that just requires the exercise of a greater and more powerful will. A deliberate, well-designed plan is required to develop an organization’s process mindset, that is, its cultural readiness for process-based management. The ongoing results of such a plan need to be measurable. Defining the process mindset Minds are often hard to change, but it can be done. Once changed, minds are likely to stay changed for the same reason. A process-aware organizational mindset will have a particular, and sometimes challenging, set of characteristics. It will be: measurement-friendly community-focused quality-motivated change-welcoming challenge-addicted action-oriented. Each of these is important. The most challenging of the organizational characteristics might be an openness to performance measurement. One of the most significant roadblocks to robust and sustainable process improvement and management can be the absence of a measurement-friendly culture. Where measurement is about finding someone to blame, catching people doing the ‘wrong thing’, then nobody will be pleased about the idea of additional measures. Acceptance of measurement as an exciting pathway to performance improvement must evolve for process-based management to succeed. People and their teams who work with a highly-developed process mindset are constantly aware of the community effort involved in the creation, accumulation, and delivery of value to customers and other stakeholders. It’s not just about ‘my job’; it’s about ‘our job’ and how all involved collaborate to do the right work well. A relentless drive to improve and produce quality outcomes is a key attribute of the process mindset. The search to find ‘better ways’ is never-ending, and the motivation to continuously improve quality is deeply embedded in the organizational culture. Continuous process improvement means continuous change and, from time to time, significant change that poses challenges for the organization, its people, and their teams. The process mindset is uncomfortable in a static environment. Well-designed, controlled action is required to realize the benefits. Process improvement is not about making recommendations; it’s about making change. Well-designed, controlled action is required to realize the benefits. In an organization with a well-developed process mindset, the following comments would be unremarkable: It’s OK to make mistakes; we welcome the opportunity to learn and improve. All questions are welcome and the organization is open to new ideas; we are willing to experiment. People at all levels are listened to, and we have open discussions about new and contentious ideas; we welcome dissent. We have a strong collaborative ethos without silos and turf wars; we strive for excellence by being collegiate and customer-focused. The absence of a process mindset at the organizational level is the difference between ad hoc attempts at process improvement, and the sustained operation of a systematic approach that deliberately and continuously discovers opportunities for process improvement, an approach that is embedded in the organizational culture. At the level of the individual, creating a process mindset is not necessarily about correcting some defect in staff motivation. The fact that poorly designed and/or managed processes work at all might be because of very high levels of motivation. In many cases, staff need to be highly motivated to find the work-arounds and put in the extra effort required to make processes work. So, to say that an organization needs to develop the process mindset of its staff is not to be critical of them. It means that the way work is described, measured, and managed needs to change, and that staff need to be made aware of, and fully included in, the collaboration that creates value. Staff need to receive the training and experiences that will allow them to work effectively in an organization with a well-developed process mindset. Practical tips for changing minds Many practical strategies can be employed to develop the ‘process mindset’. Some of these include: regular ‘community of interest’ meetings process-improvement project discussion groups library of process information process innovation jams documented success stories open discussion of process performance results idea submission schemes recognition of individual and team excellence. Training will also be necessary in topics such as: effective communication lateral thinking dealing with difficult people teamwork conflict resolution system thinking innovation. A process-aware organizational culture and mindset can evolve through active leadership and development plans, paving the way for successful and sustained process-based management. The target is to employ such development strategies to achieve a tipping point beyond which process thinking is the norm, to trigger the viral spread of the process idea, shaped and made relevant to the organization. How does this Process-based management idea help to make life a little, or a lot, simpler and easier in day-to-day work? Those messages must be tailored to resonate with the different stakeholder groups. Everybody needs to see for themselves the practical meaning and purpose in the theory and practice of process-based management. Changing minds is not a one-off project, nor a single series of time-limited activities. Continuous reinforcement is required to remind everyone why process thinking is important, and to validate the assertion that genuine and worthwhile benefits are accumulating. If we are to improve our hit rate in achieving and sustaining effective process-based management, process thinking needs to be actively nurtured.
Many organizations face the complex dilemma of dealing with major strategic and operational changes, often simultaneously. The complexity of the management challenge is increasing, often with alarming speed and consequences. This causes, not just a superabundance of operational problems, but strategic hazards that may test the viability of the organization. Key macro-challenges might include: radically increased customer expectations sector and business-model disruption reducing costs of market entry intensified competition radically and rapidly changing technology cost pressures mounting regulatory-compliance demands diminishing staff numbers increasing operational complexity fragile workforce enthusiasm These are mission-critical problems and there is a growing realization that something new is needed if they are to be solved. The organization chart shapes traditional management. Management effort consequently focuses on functional areas, i.e. ‘boxes on the chart’, and is easily fragmented. This form of ‘functional’ management has always been a key feature of management practice. Long before the invention of the theory of contemporary management in the first half of the twentieth century, organizations have structured themselves into units based on the type of work performed. Just as clearly, to get work done, to deliver value (products and services) to customers, requires collaboration across the organization and coordinated work across the separate functional areas. Every organization creates, accumulates, and delivers value across its organizational structure. Resources are managed ‘vertically’, following the organization chart, but the value pathway is ‘horizontal’, based on cross-functional collaboration. To take a familiar example, imagine the sequence involved in air travel. The passenger arrives, checks in, boards the plane, completes the flight, retrieves luggage, and leaves the airport. For the passenger to have a good trip, all of that must go well. No point having the world’s best check-in service if the luggage is lost. Having to find lost luggage is both annoying for the passenger and expensive for the airline. The creation, accumulation, and delivery of value to customers is inherently cross-functional and requires collaboration across the organization, and often beyond into other organizations. This is fact, not an opinion to challenge or a point of view to contest. Management needs its own disruption, a radical departure from the traditional model. Organizations must be good at identifying circumstances that threaten performance, but that is not enough. They also need to look for characteristics that make it strong, and for opportunities to do something new, perhaps radically innovative. It is no longer enough, if it ever was, to focus on immediate performance issues and ignore opportunities for improvement. Henry Ford reduced the build-time for a Model T chassis from 12½ to 1½ hours—a prodigious feat, an innovation whose impact is still felt today, but it would have been pointless if no one wanted to buy a car. In 1976, with a ninety per cent share of the US market, Eastman Kodak was ubiquitous; by the late 1990s it was struggling; by 2012 it was in bankruptcy protection. Despite having invented the digital camera in 1975, Kodak was slow to react to a serious decline in photographic film sales. At its peak, Kodak also had a great story to tell about increasing efficiency and performance improvement. It became efficient at producing a product few wanted, and good at delivering services few needed. In times where digital substitutes overwhelm established business models, every organization must expect to have its own ‘Kodak moment’. The primacy of process A business process is a collection of activities that transforms one or more inputs into one or more outputs. Many resources are involved in the management and execution of a process—customers, staff, materials, systems, infrastructure, information, technology, suppliers, facilities, policies, regulations—and these must also be seen to be integral to the definition of process. Processes are vital because this is how organizations get work done. The fundamental concept underpinning the ideas and practices described in this paper is the primacy of process. This says that business processes are the only way any organization can deliver value to customers and other stakeholders outside the organization. By themselves, the separate functional areas of an organization cannot deliver value to external parties. It follows that every organization executes its strategic intent via its business processes. The sequence from strategy to execution is shown in Figure 1, encapsulating both the strategic and the operational importance of the process view. The inescapable conclusion is that the starting point for effective organizational management is to understand, manage, and optimize those business processes. Without a proactive focus on business processes, organizational performance cannot improve and strategy cannot be effectively executed. If value is created, accumulated, and delivered across the organization, are those value pathways defined and documented? If value is created, accumulated, and delivered across the organization, what measures of performance are made in that direction? If value is created, accumulated, and delivered across the organization, who is in charge of that? Organizations must reimagine their operations as value creation and delivery flows that must be proactively managed and continually improved. The management philosophy that facilitates that is process-based management. Defining process-based management Bringing together these concepts, three principles underpin process-based management: 1. Business processes are the collections of cross-functional activities that deliver value to an organization’s external customers and other stakeholders—the only way that any organization can deliver such value. Individual functional areas cannot, by them-selves, deliver value to external customers. 2. It follows that an organization executes its strategic intent via its business processes. Business processes are the conduits through which value is exchanged between customers and the organization. Therefore, business processes need to be thought-fully managed and continuously improved to maintain an unimpeded flow of value with customers and other stakeholders. 3. An organization’s resources are traditionally managed vertically via the organization chart. Value is created, accumulated, and delivered horizontally across that chart. Value is accumulated, not up and down the functions as represented in an organization chart, but across the organization as shown in a business process architecture. The various functions collaborate via business processes to create, accumulate, and deliver value to customers and other stakeholders in the form of a desired product, service, or some other outcome. Figure 2: Functional and process organization views The profound premise for process-based management is illustrated in Figure 2, showing both the functional and process organizational views. Enabling process-based management Seven elements, the 7Enablers of BPM, come together to create and sustain process-based management. If developed simultaneously at the pace appropriate to the organization, these elements significantly increase the likelihood of creating sustained process-based management. The 7Enablers is a collective of mutually supportive prerequisites for successful and sustained process-based management. Process architecture: discovery, understanding, and documentation of the organization’s business processes and related resources in a hierarchical model. Process measurement: defining process performance measures and measurement methods, collecting and reporting process performance data. Process governance: reimagining, and responding to, process performance anomalies, innovation opportunities, process documentation, and general hygiene. Process change: continually discovering ways to close process performance gaps by eliminating problems and capitalizing on opportunities. Process mindset: creating an environment where the organization, its people, and their teams, are always conscious of the processes in which they participate. Process capability: developing the tools and skills required throughout the organization to identify, analyze, improve, innovate, and manage business processes. Process support: providing support throughout the organization to develop, sustain, and realize process-based management benefits. Figure 3: The 7Enablers of BPM These seven enablers are shown in Figure 3. A Mobius strip format is used to highlight the interdependencies between the elements. To thrive, perhaps even to survive, in times when ‘doing more with less’ seems both inevitable and impossible, executives need to reimagine their organizations as value-creation and delivery flows. Process-based management delivers a practical, proven approach and the 7Enablers represents a breakthrough in management practice. Managing reimagination This paper has discussed seven enablers of process-based management, seven elements that will put management focus where it should be, on cross-functional value creation, accumulation, and delivery. If you accept the premise that no unit identified on an organization chart can, by itself, deliver value to an external customer or other stakeholder, (and how could you not do so?) then you accept the main concept of process-based management. The inevitable consequence of that is acceptance of the certainty that processes must be identified, analyzed, improved and managed. Since the organization chart is silent on the management of cross-functional processes, a separate, targeted, and comprehensive intervention is required to enable process-based management and realize the benefits that come from it. At a time when the requirement to ‘do more with less’ seems both inevitable and impossible, process-based management delivers a practical, proven approach. This article is an edited extract from the book, Reimagining Management. From the foreword by Professor Michael Rosemann: ‘This book has the potential to become an essential, shared point of reference for designing organizations.’
Many articles have described the essential tools of achieving and sustaining process-based management. The Tregear Circles define the management meta-model that focuses on genuine, targeted, and evidence-based performance improvement. The 7Enablers of BPM describes how process-based management, via the circles, is enabled and embedded. Of course, it’s not enough to just define the ideal state of two circles and seven enablers. To get to that target state requires a significant transformation project—the Big BPM Project. Such an undertaking may appear quite daunting at first. It is complex to change the way an organization, its people, and their teams think about who they are, what they do, and how they do it. Thoughtful preparation and careful execution of well-defined work packages make a successful Big BPM transformation project eminently achievable. This paper describes a very practical approach to the Big BPM Project. It may be used as a reference model on which to base a specific project design. Figure 1 shows a high-level view, showing how the 7Enablers shape the required set of work packages ‘get the circles turning’, along with the establishment and preparation elements necessary to enable transformation to a mature process-based management operation. Emphasis is placed on the establishment and preparation phases, since they provide the necessary foundation for other project activities, and are a prerequisite for successful transformation. This is not a detailed project-management treatment of the Big BPM Project, since that material is readily available from many other sources. Rather, this paper provides commentary on those aspects that are unique or particularly important to the Big BPM Project. To maximize project efficiency and keep all key stakeholders continually informed about progress and design decisions, having two project teams is recommended. The development team is the core project team comprised of the people who will work on the Big BPM Project to deliver the work packages and related activities. Additional people, acting as subject matter experts, will be involved from time to time, participating in workshops and other discussions and reviews. The reference group is comprised of senior managers and executives, the people who will ultimately make decisions regarding the project deliverables. This group is formed are to boost experienced management input, and to facilitate later decision-making and implementation of changes by keeping decision-makers continually briefed and engaged. How long does it take to complete the Big BPM Project? Assuming the establishment phase to be complete, the rest of the project might take between three and six months. Note that this brings the project to the point where each of the enablers has been activated and related activity is ongoing and becoming commonplace. Establishment phase An understandable desire is for immersion in project detail as soon as possible—to start building the architecture, assigning measures, running workshops, and doing the many other activities in the plan. However, to do this too quickly will bring failure. Without shared understanding and commitment at all levels, confusion, division, and apathy are inevitable. The establishment phase is a vital preliminary step intended to create throughout the stakeholder group, especially at executive levels, a shared understanding of why the Big BPM Project is important, based on compelling reasons reflecting the realities of the organization. A secondary, yet very important, objective is to assess the organization’s appetites and aptitudes for the prospective operational and cultural changes. Is the organization ready? The foundational outcomes required for success in the establishment phase are: organizational strategy clearly articulated and widely agreed compelling reasons agreed and documented comprehensive stakeholder analysis completed communications plan, reflecting stakeholder analysis, agreed documentation of decision-making guidelines complete assessment of BPM culture completed and discussed assessment of BPM maturity a completed and discussed agreement to proceed supported by all key stakeholders. Preparation phase The preparation phase, possibly taking one to two weeks, is about arranging project logistics, and starting the project. The minutiae of project management are put in place in this phase: scheduling workshops and interviews, booking spaces, creating project libraries etc. Other sessions, workshops, and meetings may also be useful in properly starting the project. Project work packages Once the establishment and preparation stages are complete, it’s time to get into details of the work packages that will be the core of the Big BPM Project. The work packages for each of the enablers are discussed below. For the purposes of description, the work packages are presented in separate and seemingly linear form, but in operation, they are put into effect largely in parallel as shown in Figure 1. Work package #1: process architecture Project objectives (WP1 architecture) In the Big BPM Project, the objectives for the architecture work package are as follows: Create and publish the first levels of the architecture. Develop common understanding of a process architecture. Begin development of maturity in the management and use of process architecture. Project deliverables (WP1 architecture) The key deliverables from this work package are: an initial process architecture modeled to three levels of core processes and one level of management and supporting processes short (fifty words maximum) description of each process identified in the architecture to provide information about its intent presentation and communication material for informing and educating stakeholders about the importance and use of the process architecture. Work package #2: process measurement Project objectives (WP2 measurement) The process measurement work package has the following objectives: Assign performance targets to key processes defined in the process architecture. Define how performance data will be collected and reported. Create systems to make evidence-based decisions prioritizing process improvement. Continue to embed process-based management by ensuring that all stakeholders understand the importance of process performance measurement. Project deliverables (WP2 measurement) The key deliverables from this work package are: measures and targets assigned to the top two levels of core processes measures and targets assigned to first level of shared management processes measures and targets assigned to first level of shared supporting processes measurement methods identified for all targets where useful, explanatory notes to show reasons for selecting process measures presentation and communication material to inform stakeholders about the importance and use of process measurement. Work package #3: process governance Project objectives (WP3 governance) For the process governance work package, the following are the key objectives: Ensure that active management of cross-functional process performance is based on evidence and assigned roles. Ensure that process improvement deals with both performance anomalies and idea discovery for process change. Take an important step toward enhanced process-based management maturity by bringing together the theory and practice of process architecture and measurement to form a practical management framework. Project deliverables (WP3 governance) The key deliverables from this process governance work package are as follows: agreed role descriptions for the process owner process owners appointed to Level 0 core processes, and possibly also to Level 1 process owners appointed to the key Level 1 shared management processes process owners appointed to the key Level 1 shared support processes support plans to assist process owners meet their role accountabilities communication material to inform process owners and other stakeholders about the importance and operation of process-governance arrangements. Work package #4: process change Project objectives (WP4 change) The change enabler objectives for the Big BPM Project are as follows: Create an environment where continuous improvement, using a standard methodology, is common practice. Ensure all staff are willing and able to participate in process improvement activities. Create a consistent mechanism for prioritizing processes for analysis. Establish of a way to track the realization of promised benefits. Project deliverables (WP4 change) The key deliverables from this work package are: agreed, fully documented process improvement methodology improved project selection prioritization scheme process improvement curriculum and development plans initial process improvement projects communication material, to inform stakeholders about the importance and execution of process change. Work package #5: process mindset Project objectives (WP5 mindset) The mindset work package has these objectives: Embed process thinking in all stakeholders so they understand, and seek to optimize, their roles in process execution. Develop a culture that values process measurement and continually seeks opportunities for improvement and innovation. Engage the organization, its people, and their teams in new ways of thinking about customer service delivery. Enhance widespread understanding of the cross-functional nature of value creation, accumulation, and delivery. Involve all staff in the definition and execution of process improvement aspirations and initiatives. Project deliverables (WP5 mindset) The key deliverables from this work package in the Big BPM Project are: comprehensive process change management plan to define and guide communications with all stakeholders an appropriate ‘community of practice’ to support and nurture the process mindset well-defined communication channels with plans for development and maintenance effective system to stimulate and manage process improvement suggestions. Work package #6: process capability Project objectives (WP6 capability) The Big BPM Project has the following objectives for the capability enabler: Ensure all staff can participate in process improvement and management activities. Enhance staff capabilities to deal with change and cross-functional working. Support staff with access to process-based management information and systems. Develop and maintain an accessible body of process knowledge. Project deliverables (WP6 capability) The key deliverables from this work package are: documented learning pathways to define and deliver capability development curriculum tailored to match different stakeholder requirements accessible documentation about process methodologies, tools, and techniques knowledge base related to process-based management theory and practice. Work package #7: process support Project objectives (WP7 support) This project work package has the following objectives, to: Improve process-based management capabilities by providing effective support. Support staff in the analysis, improvement, and management of business processes. Ensure compliance with standards and conventions. Support process owners and the process council. Monitor and improve the ‘process of process management’. Enable efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of process-based management. Project deliverables (WP7 support) The key deliverables from this work package are: operational office of BPM providing initial services to the satisfaction of stakeholders documentation describing the services available and how they are accessed performance measures and targets for the operation of key office of BPM processes. Business better than usual At the end of the Big BPM Project, a process architecture has been defined and documented, process performance measurement has been established along with related governance mechanisms, and continuous improvement (change) methodologies have been implemented. In so doing, the process mindset and capability of the organization, its people, and their teams have been enhanced, and support facilities have been put in place. The stage is set for successful ongoing process-based management. Completion of the Big BPM Project marks the start of effective, sustained process-based management.  This paper provides a high-level overview of the project phases and work packages. For a more detailed treatment see chapter 10 of the book Reimagining Management.
Readers in parts of the world where Christmas is celebrated (or is that selleberated!) well understand the rituals of giving and receiving. Santa Clause is checking inventory, supply chain managers are frantic, the transport pool is making final adjustments, and the naughty/nice lists are being debated and finalized. In other parts of the world, readers have their own celebration and remembrance festivals through the year. The giving and receiving of gifts, goodwill and grace are important parts of our lives. This has me thinking, inevitably, about processes. Yes, I know – sad, but true! It is common to say that business processes are the conduits through which every organization delivers value to its customers and other stakeholders. Therefore, business processes need to be thoughtfully managed and continuously improved to maintain an unimpeded flow of value. Many readers will agree that this is the essential premise of Business Process Management, the touchstone on which all other related process-centric management, governance, measurement and technology initiatives rely. However, this is not complete. This view of a one-way flow of value is a distortion of what actually happens. It is not enough to deliver value, we must always exchange value. Of course, every organization exists to deliver some form of value proposition to customers and other stakeholders and we see these documented in Mission, Vision or other statements of strategic intent. Business processes are the pathways through which we execute that intent. But it’s not a one-way street. Organizations, at least the successful ones, deliver value and they must also be receiving value in return. Organizations are not infinite value generators, content to stream out value endlessly and for no purpose. There must be a return path. Without adequate return, the operation cannot be sustained. I have spoken previously of 'Balanced Process Management'. In that article I made the point that: Satisfying, indeed delighting, external customers is vital but it’s not the complete picture. We must look at the whole process. It is a great idea to start at the external customer end of a value chain, but it would be dumb to stop there. For a commercial organization, the exchange is easier to define. In the private sector, the most obvious exchange is that goods and services go to the customer and money comes in return. Value, as perceived by the customer, might go beyond the actual product or service. There may be some prestige, personal satisfaction, aspirational or lifestyle element to the value proposition. In the other direction, a high performance exchange will return more than just the payment. We want the customer to be a fan, to be so pleased with the exchange they tell their world about it. If there are any problems, we would also like to get that feedback so we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. In many circumstances we would also hope to have repeat business from the customer based on earlier experiences. So goods and services, aspirational and lifestyle fulfillment are delivered to the customer and we want payment, references, feedback and repeat business from the customer. Two-way streets must be managed in both directions. The exchange is sometimes a little less obvious and direct in the public sector, but it still happens. Government Process Management (GPM) has important differences to Business Process management (BPM). An “operational” government agency, such as one that regulates the use of cars on our roads, provides a range of services: safety, security, vehicle identification, and contribution to road maintenance funding, for example. In the other direction, car owners provide money and information. In some areas of government, the key output is policy and the process value exchange involves more abstract issues related to the “public good”. In the Not For Profit sector there are similar elements for some processes. Whatever the organization, whatever the process, it is important to have a balanced view about the two-way flow of value. It’s not just about the Customer Value Proposition; we should also define the Process Value Proposition. For each process we are analyzing, we need to define the value that should be received by the process. What do we need from our customers and other stakeholders, how much, how often? Who are the best performing customers? Not every organization has a choice about its customers; only some have the ability to “sack” a customer. In every case though, we should have a clear understanding about which customer/stakeholder groups need the most management and attention. These are issues about which we should have clear and measurable objectives. What do you know about your customers’ processes? Some outputs of their processes will be coming to you as inputs? The companion to the process Receive Order is Place Order. Perhaps we too often focus on the first and forget the second. The familiar adage says it is better to give, than to receive. For our processes, we should be saying it is best to give and receive. It’s the Santa clause.
From many personal experiences, positive and negative, of encouraging organizations and their teams and people with the idea of process-based management, I offer some thoughts in this article about one very important aspect – it’s a mind game, not tool time. The achievement of effective, sustained process-based management is 90% mindset and 10% toolset. High levels of BPM maturity can only be achieved and maintained if the correct conceptual framework is in play. Too often we are focused on the 10%, at the expense of the 90%. The tools and techniques are critically important, but they are not the main game. Having the right IT and other tools is a necessary, but nowhere near sufficient, condition for success. Making the idea of BPM resonate within an organization requires deep engagement with the key challenges of contemporary management. If you don’t ‘think process’, you won’t ‘do process’. The likelihood that organizations, teams or individuals will adopt process-centric approaches to management depends on what they think will happen if they do. Process-based management must give positive support to the achievement of organizational objectives if it is to have any value. Success is not measured in the number of models drawn, the cleverness of the process architecture, the number of process measures, the documentation of methodologies, or the sophistication of the automation. Success can only be claimed if organizational performance has been improved, and demonstrably so, as a result of taking a process view. People will only buy-in to the idea of BPM if they can see that it is likely to solve some clear and present difficulty in a pragmatic, cost-effective, and sustainable way. When pitching the idea of BPM, we need to be thinking about As Is / To Be changes, not in processes, but in mindsets. About now you might be tempted to suggest “Well, D’oh. Of course! That’s obvious”. Well, we might assert that it should be like that, but the evidence says that we have a long way to go. In the BPTrends report, The State of Business Process Management 2016, it is reported that only 24% of respondents said that “their executives regarded BPM as a major strategic commitment.” Another disturbing survey result says that in 74% of cases, managers were never, or only occasionally, “trained to analyze, design, and manage business processes”. Even more worrying is the analysis showing that 73% of respondents said their process managers never, or only occasionally, “use performance data to manage their processes”. There’s another way of doing that? This suggests that we are a long way from having an effective process mindset in many organizations. As always, to be sure we are talking about the same thing, I summarize my understanding of the BPM management philosophy as follows: Business processes are the collections of cross-functional activities that deliver value to an organization’s external customers and other stakeholders. They are the only way that any organization can deliver such value. Individual organizational functional areas cannot, by themselves, deliver value to external customers. It follows that an organization executes its strategic intent via its business processes. Business processes are the conduits through which value is exchanged between customers and the organization. Therefore, business processes need to be thoughtfully managed and continuously improved to maintain an unimpeded flow of value between the organization and its customers and other stakeholders. To achieve this outcome, we must start with the mindset, not the toolset. It’s all in the mind Minds are often hard to change, but it can be done. Once changed, minds are likely to stay changed for the same reason. Although the idea of having to do more than an impressive technology demonstration, might be daunting, it can also be reassuring. We have all seen, perhaps given, cool technical demonstrations that were exciting for an hour, and changed very little. Forget about the tools. No business has a problem called “we don’t have enough software”. “What’s the problem we are trying to fix?” That’s the question, and the answer needs to be framed in terms of a mindset of real strategic, operational or tactical improvements if process-based management is to resonate with the gatekeepers. Modeling mindsets Different audiences have different mindsets, and require different messages. To understand the differences we should ‘model’ the mindsets. What are the key players really thinking? What are their current management challenges? Which of the process messages are they most likely to find attractive? What mindsets do they need to have individually and collectively to achieve high(er) levels of BPM maturity? What do we need to do to close the gap from current to target mindset – a familiar As Is / To Be / To Do cycle. Getting minds around “continuous” Everyone signs up for “continuous improvement”. Great idea, why wouldn’t we go for that? Well, we also need to get our minds around the certainty that “continuous improvement” also means continuous measurement, change, challenge, activity and organizational friction. Well worth doing, but what looks obvious and desirable on the poster, can sometimes prove to be quite difficult to endure in the live workplace. It requires an uncommon openness, a different way of thinking about daily workplace operations, relationships, fears and motivations. Mind the gap To improve a process, we need to find a gap between what is and what might be. In theory, we want to find big gaps so we can make big improvements. However, I regularly meet people who worry that openly “admitting” to a significant process improvement will be seen as a past failure rather than an ongoing success. They can see cost-effective ways to improve a process significantly, clearly a good thing to do, but the same mind that approves the change, has to acknowledge the newly discovered, but perhaps long unobserved, problem or opportunity. What’s the mindset at your place of work? Imagine that a process is found to have been costing, for the last five years, a million dollars a year more than it needed to. Would that be seen to be a sackable offense, or a cause for celebration and congratulation? If you managed large parts of that process, would you be elated or nervous in announcing that bit of continuous improvement? In Conclusion We might argue that the mindset/toolset emphasis is 80/20 rather than 90/10, you might even convince me it’s 70/30, but it’s certainly not the reverse of any of those. To create a viral spread of the idea of BPM, tools and techniques alone won’t do it. We also need hearts and minds.  Harmon, Paul. “The State of Business Process Management 2016”. Accessed May 18, 2013. http://www.bptrends.com/bpt/wp-content/uploads/2015-BPT-Survey-Report.pdf  Ibid., p 12  Ibid., p 18  Ibid., p 20